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John Daniel Hertz (April 10, 1879 - October 8, 1961) was an Americanmarker businessman, thoroughbred racehorse owner, and philanthropist.


Born Sandor Herz in the village of Ruttkamarker, Kingdom of Hungary, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, today Slovakia, he emigrated to the United Statesmarker when he was five.

As a young man, Hertz was an amateur boxer, fighting under the name "Dan Donnelly." He won amateur championships at the Chicago Athletic Association and eventually began to box under his own name and became the manager for Benny Yanger.

Business career

Hertz's first job was selling newspapers, and eventually he became a reporter for the Chicago Morning News. When the paper, then called the Chicago Record merged with another paper, he lost his job. Although he couldn't drive, in 1904 he found a job selling cars at the suggestion of a friend. Because of the number of trade-ins, he came up with the idea of creating a cab company with low prices so the common man could afford to ride in them. In 1907, he had a fleet of seven used cars that he used as cabs.

He founded the Yellow Cab Company in Chicagomarker in 1915 as a way to provide transportation at a modest price. In the early 20th century, livery services were limited to the upper parts of society and Hertz thought there was huge potential for someone to provide lower cost services. His distinctive yellow cabs became popular and he quickly franchised the operation throughout the United Statesmarker. In 1924, he expanded the notion of cheaper transportation by acquiring a rental car business, renaming it Hertz Drive-Ur-Self Corporation. Ultimately, both operations were sold to General Motors with Hertz being named to GM's board of directors.

In 1903 he married Fannie Kesner of Chicago with whom he had three children: Leona Jane, John Jr., and Helen. John Jr. became an advertising executive and was briefly married between 1942 and 1944 to film star Myrna Loy.

In 1933, Robert Lehman sold Hertz a minority interest in Lehman Brothers investment bank in New York Citymarker and he remained a member of the firm until his death. In 1938 Hertz was prepared to buy Eastern Air Lines from General Motors but the airline's General Manager, Eddie Rickenbacker, was able to raise the necessary financing to acquire Eastern before Hertz could exercise his option.

Thoroughbred horse racing

John and Fannie Hertz were major figures in Thoroughbred horse racing. They owned a horse farm at Trout Valleymarker near Cary, Illinoismarker, another known as Amarillo Ranch in Woodland Hills, Californiamarker in the San Fernando Valleymarker. However, Stoner Creek Stud on Middletown Road near Paris, Kentuckymarker would become their most important breeding and training center. Among their top horses were the 1928 Kentucky Derby winner and American Horse of the Year, Reigh Count, who sired the legendary Count Fleet, winner of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing in 1943. Both horses were inducted in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.


During the Cold War era, Hertz established the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation with the purpose of supporting military research. Friend Edward Teller urged Hertz to orient his foundation to fund education in the applied sciences. The Hertz Foundation fellowship program is administered primarily by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratorymarker who are associated with the military's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile defense programs. For his significant contribution to the security of the United States, in 1958 he received the highest civilian award given by the Department of Defensemarker.

In 1924, Hertz fronted the city of Chicago $34,000 to install the city's first traffic lights on Michigan Avenuemarker.

Hertz died in 1961 and his wife died two years later. They are buried together in the Rosehill Cemetery, Chicagomarker.


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